Fantasy dancing, or the frisson of regret about missing something you never would have had the chance to see anyway

For those of you who still remember these categories from Armitage epistemology, below I offer something like a “d” reading.

Quotidian partier, if skanky: Lee (Richard Armitage) opens the door to his hotel room in Cold Feet. Source: RichardArmitageNet.com

I’ve written here, often enough, that the thought of actually seeing Mr. Armitage in the flesh leaves me heavily conflicted. But as I listen to more and more dance music in an attempt to keep the euphoria flowing and keep myself moving toward my goal, I do frequently think of one setting in which I wish I could see him. I’d like to see Richard Armitage dance. It’s a relatively specific setting that I have in mind, though.

Though I’m jealous of the people who got to see him dance on stage approximately a year ago, that’s not precisely what I mean. And, yes, I’ve see the Cats rehearsal videos, and while those make inspiring testaments to his artistic talent and physical control, that’s not quite what I mean, either. Not the impromptu dancing with friends from his late adolescence, either. (And: For those who think I’m dreaming of seeing him doing a strip tease, get your minds out of the gutter!)

Now that I’m having these fantasies that center around dancing, I’ve started to wonder what Armitage looks like when he’s dancing, not so much because I want to witness the snakehips style he’s said he hopes he has, or on account of the sexiness of the tango as his reported favorite dance, although I’ve speculated on the way the tango influences some other movements he’s made. Ballroom isn’t what I’ve got in mind, though I’ve wondered from time to time about how he might look in cowboy boots, doing the Texas Two-Step, which is the social dance I’ve probably seen most in the last years of my life (as opposed to the polka, which was big in Wisconsin). And yeah, I wonder how his gait would change if he walked in cowboy boots.

But the point for me isn’t display or performance; instead, I think, the connection to dance is about euphoria, at least this time. He’s said he’s the first on the dance floor because he loves the euphoria, and I think that my experience of euphoria while watching him makes me curious about how he experiences euphoria. Hearing certain kinds of bass lines that make me want to get out of my chair makes me wonder how he looks when he’s dancing just for his own enjoyment, not for any audience. Does he move his shoulders? Shake his head? Stand still and sway? Is he a modest, background dancer, or someone who other people pause to watch? How does he produce the flow experience for himself while dancing? These are things I’d really like to know. Cause yeah, the thought of Richard Armitage just jamming out somewhere, in a bar or a club, to music he particularly likes, engaged in unconscious pleasure — now that is really stimulating of euphoria for me.

The image I’ve been most constantly preoccupied with for the last ten days or so. From the still elusive Recognise magazine shoot. Source: RichardArmitageNet.com

Of course, even if I some day see him on stage, I’ll never see him in a setting like that, and the desire to do so strikes me as vaguely sketchy, and not for the obvious reason that pursuing it would involve an unacceptable breach of privacy. It’s a problematic desire, I think, because the proposition is so inherently deceptive. I only have the fantasy of seeing Armitage experience euphoria for himself in the first place because of an objectification that has already occurred. This crush delivers information on the basis of representations that themselves reflect something that doesn’t exist, but which the form of the objectification causes me to desire. To take an example, if we desire to see a lion in the wild (for most of us, who aren’t running across wild lions every day), it’s because we have an idea of what that sight might be like based on our reaction to an objectification that’s already occurred: we’ve seen a lion in a zoo, for instance, or seen videotapes of lions in the wild, and we think that our response to the experience of seeing an actual lion would be (even) better. But our fantasy about the potential experience is, in turn, itself an objectification that involves another unreal circumstance, this time in which both observer and observed are unreal versions of themselves. At least when I watch something that’s an objectification, I can think of myself as a slightly stable subject: as if there is an actual “how I am that causes me to see this image in this way.” But in order to watch something that occurs in my fantasy, I have to construct both the object of the fantasy and myself as unreal: I become “how I would be if I were experiencing this particular fantasy.” The fantasy of myself becomes part of the fantasy of the thing I’m observing and in term gives that fantasy of the other additional energy.

Something like this occurs when I look at photos like the one above. In this case, the objectification that has already occurred is the one that makes Armitage’s glance elusive. “Look down,” the photographer has said, and Armitage has looked down, and a photograph has been taken of Armitage looking at the floor. What makes the photo tantalizing for me is the notion that I could cause his gaze to be forced up again to confront me as viewer and that I could then see him looking up, straight at me. The frame for this fantasy is the elusive downward gaze, an objectification created by the photographer; the explicit fantasy that relies on my idea that I know who I am is my explicitly articulated desire, in response to the photo, to make him look; and the fantasy of myself that is in turn required for that to happen is that I am in a position to make him look up and see him when he does. Most of the images in this series seem to trigger this triangular relationship by showing him looking away from the viewer, and they all signal the tension of the dressed / undressed binary somehow — even when he has a tie on, he’s fiddling with it (one reading, a sort of schoolboy gesture that signals discomfort and the desire to take the oh-so-confining or troublesome binding off) and when he has it off, he’s putting his hand in the place of the tie or else looking downward. Of all the images that I’ve seen so far from this series, only one has him looking at the camera, and in precisely that image, he’s got a very open collar and is fiddling with a cufflink, as if he’s dressing or undressing, as if the fantasy of the elusiveness of something (the naked body he could be moving toward, or covering up, depending on what exactly we think he’s doing with that cufflink) is being used to extend the intangibility of the image and forcing the viewer to insert her fantasy of what she’s doing every more insistently into the picture to give it a reading.

Back to where I started — the desire to observe Armitage experiencing euphoria for himself, as if he were not being watched, as if that could parallel my own euphoria in watching him from behind a computer screen: A lot of times when I listen to dance music I shake my head until I’m dizzy. I wonder if part of the effect of Armitage euphoria has to do with the way that it destabilizes me as an observer. I not only see the objectified frame for the fantasy in these interviews that discuss dance, which in turn create another fantasy Richard Armitage, dancing for himself in ignorance of any observer — the strength of these interviews is that they allow us to think that there’s something real behind all of the representations and images and fantasies they suggest –, but I think up a fantasy, decentered Servetus unencumbered either by reality or scruples, who can fully groove to that fantasy.

In short: I want to be the person I feel myself to be when I watch Richard Armitage. Or even when I think about watching him. Even if crushing is an inherently humiliating experience, watching him and creating these fantasies makes me feel strangely powerful.

It’s just one more way in which Armitagemania, the crush on Richard Armitage, seems to involve a dizzying, euphoric fantasy of the self.

~ by Servetus on November 10, 2011.

36 Responses to “Fantasy dancing, or the frisson of regret about missing something you never would have had the chance to see anyway”

  1. The images in my mind now…well! I love to watch people dance. Generally I think nowadays most people on a dance floor are largely unconscious of how they look to observers. Dancing seems to be a moment where you lose yourself to the music and just move and the thought of seeing Richard Armitage in that moment…lost to the music and just moving to it is impossibly sexy because of course, in my mind, he’d be moving beautifully.

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    • In my mind he’d be moving beautifully too — but I think part of the fantasy is that I’d be seeing him without performance, as he is. So even if (counterfactual hypothetical) he were a terrible dancer, he’d still be being the real Richard. Just as I fantasize about being the real Servetus.

      But yeah, it’s a potent image.

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  2. Oh you read my mind!!! I’ve been thinking about seeing him dance over the last few days – must be something in the air!!

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  3. Given his dance experience, I think we’re fairly safe to assume he would dance beautifully. Even after all these years (17 since Cats) he is still graceful and controlled in his movements.
    I hope he continues to find a place where he feels free to be out on the dance floor, to experience that euphoria.

    I watch the Cats videos a couple of times a week because I have a feeling they are going to be the only opportunity I will ever have to see him dance, and I am still mesmerized by him after countless viewings. Obsessed? Moi? *sigh*
    The mere thought of seeing him dance as Richard outside of a performance, even if he should turn out to be a dorky mover, makes me absolutely giddy.
    In performance or out, dorky or not, I just want to see HIM. *sighs again*

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    • I can’t imagine he’ll do musical theatre again. If he’d wanted to do that he’d have continued with it twenty years ago, so you may be right. I’m glad those tapes surfaced for you 🙂

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      • I think that’s partly why I enjoyed callie’s current post on the 24 Hour Plays so much. The vicarious experience of him dancing on stage, albeit in a seemingly playful manner, is better than none at all! 🙂

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  4. How odd; been imagining a dancing RA too. (must be something about the autumn air, kaprekar – change of season, anyway). Druids at Stonehenge? No, paso doble comes to mind…

    Even if it’s “performance”, all his movements have music to them. But there is that shot from MI5 7 when he and Ben tear down the corridor to rescue Ros from the Russian mafia’s gun to head (have to learn to link!), coattails flapping – it doesn’t look performance…

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    • All this talk about dance is almost bizarre! Only yesterday I happened to bump into this lady whom I first met a couple of years ago. She is a friend of my daughter’s and they had got to know each other through their daughters being in the same dance school. She was in a bit of a rush as she was on her way to her Argentinian Tango Class lesson! Brave lady! Of course I just HAD to mention Mr. A (whom she’d never heard of!!) but as she asked me three times what his name was, I hope it is now imprinted on her mind so that she will check him out – or should that be “look him up” – on the Internet. Even before meeting her I too had recently been thinking a lot about RA dancing, so how strange is that? I would love to observe him when he was just being himself (perhaps at a wedding or something) and reveling in the enjoyment of it and quite oblivious of anyone around him. I would rather see that for myself than see a video that someone had taken of him doing that as I think that would be more of a breach of his privacy for some reason than me just randomly being there! Somehow I think he would be fantastic, but it wouldn’t bother me in the least if he wasn’t as long as he was having fun!

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      • Teuchter, I agree with you about a video of him dancing in RL would be a breach of his privacy. I too would much rather it be a random sighting. Having said that, I would have to be honest and admit that I would find it extremely difficult to resist looking at such a video should one ever surface. (I’ve not seen the impromptu adolescent one)

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    • Oooh fitzg, that short sequence is one of my favourites for slo-moing, the way he slips off the stool so smoothly and gracefully and takes off running, with his beautiful long strides. And the flapping coattails do tend to draw attention to a certain *ahem* area! 😉

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      • There is something magical about the way he runs. 🙂 I have watched lots of actors running but he somehow manages to make it elegant. In the scene in Spooks 9 when that hooded figure ran away and they think it is Lucas, I knew right away it wasn’t him as the guy just didn’t run like him! As I watched it I found myself saying out loud, “That’s not Lucas!!!!”

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  5. To be honest, while it is a thrilling thought, I would feel embarrassed, as if I witness something private not intended for my eyes, if I would see him dancing in a club (as opposed to more formal ballroom dancing). I would also feel the same should I see him interacting with friends in such a casual setting. Of course it would be a public place and he wouldn’t do anything too private but it would be a weird and slightly voyeuristic situation because I would know who he is and have a heightened awareness/interest in him but he would have no idea that I’m there and who I am. Usually the people on such an occasion are either friends or strangers and if a stranger catches my eye, it would be because his dancing is so good or he’s so good-looking, but not because he is Richard Armitage, actor. Does this make any sense?

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    • Yes, it does, and thanks for broaching this part of the discussion. It seems most comments so far have focused on the fantasy of seeing him dance (which is fine — that’s what I wrote about, and I have that fantasy) but yours moves towards the other aspect of the post — my argument that the fantasy relates not to witnessing something real but to witnessing something that’s on some level impossible to witness. I don’t mean that in the sense of it not being possible that you’d actually end up in a club some day in which Richard Armitage was dancing with friends, but that it would be possible to witness Richard Armitage “in the wild” (so to speak) without all of your own baggage already in place. You’d feel like a voyeur (I suspect) because he’s already been objectified.

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      • Yes, it would be impossible to “observe him in the wild” but that would be the only kind of encounter I would be interested in – with me having no idea who he is and not having a crush on him and having followed his career for years, and with him being a truly ordinary guy. As much as he claims to be one, he must be aware that he isn’t for people that recognise him because he’s famous, a bit like the lion in a zoo. Apparently in NZ he still enjoys being anonymous and people don’t bother him because they have no idea who he is, as opposed to recognizing him but deciding to leave him alone. The latter may be the case with the likes of Orlando Bloom. Not just fans that may approach him, but for exmple the waitress in a cafe that knows who he is, it must be weird.

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  6. Years ago, I practiced Tae Kwon Do. One of the things I noticed is that a person’s personality is very definitely expressed in the way they spar–are they cautious, aggressive, reckless, thoughtful, elegant? You can really see it when they’re fighting. I think dancing is similar. Actually, probably everything a person does expresses who they are, it’s just easier to see when they’re moving in such a focused way. I think that’s why it’s so cool to watch someone dance.

    Also, when you think about Richard Armitage dancing, isn’t this in part a projection of yourself? When we’re doing the imagining, in a way we’re admiring a displaced piece of our own selves, like two mirrors facing each other. And if it’s our own selves that we are seeing in our mind’s eye, isn’t it all right to admire? (Okay, I don’t know if that makes sense. Sorry about that!)

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    • Projection of self: yes, this is what I argued in the second half of the piece (that the fantasy of watching the “real” Richard Armitage is a fantasy of self).

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  7. I am sure if Richard were dancing in public, for instance at a wedding, he couldn’t help but show the inherent elegance and style and skill that his training has given him, but I also wouldn’t be at all surprised if he isn’t that great at dancing spontaneously in public when he isn’t in performance mode. A lot of performers I know, including me (former professional singer) feel very uncomfortable giving any sort of public display unless it’s in character. I’ve danced on stage, (just simple stuff in opera crowd scenes) and love singing and acting on stage, but I would rather curl up and die than dance un-choreographed at a wedding or sing impromptu at a karaoke night where I am the real me rather than the professional me. I am projecting my own feelings onto Mr Armitage, but his shyness in interviews when he doesn’t have a character to hide behind suggests to me that he would feel similarly.

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    • thanks for the comment, tigerfilly. I think that’s right — we’re prepared to perform in certain contexts (I have this same reaction in lecture venues) but not in others.

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  8. Perhaps there is a relationship between the discomfort we’d feel at observing an actor whom we’ve objectified, and the sense of betraying our reactions, in the act of “voyeurism”. Even if the reaction is invisible to him or anyone else present, it is to us. A too close encounter with ourselves?

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    • yeah, nicely put, fitzg. I think that’s a consequence of the fantasy of self — having to look at our own impulses more closely than we might prefer to do. It’s easier to put oneself behind the hedge of inflexible morals (I’m not criticizing that choice, btw, it would be easier) or decide that the problem is negligible, than to admit that the problem is there and that it has to do with our ideas about ourselves, not our ideas about others.

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  9. Embarassment is here but mostly I’m having so much fun:)
    Am I prude with dirty minds? Am I Voyeur with coinscience?:D

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    • I’m not urging anyone to feel guilty. 🙂 That would be hypocritical. Just trying to get behind what’s triggering this 🙂

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  10. […] If we don’t get to watch him dance, at least we can watch him brawl, no? […]

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  11. I just reblogged this on tumblr and if that is indeed RA and not a stunt double the pose he’s adopted as he flies through the air seems almost balletic, which given his background is unsurprising.

    http://kathrynruthd.tumblr.com/post/12924225406

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    • I think this comment was supposed to go on the post with the cut from the scene where Guy fights with the Nightwatchman. I’ve watched it a few times and I am pretty sure it’s him — his physical build is different from that of his stuntman.

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  12. […] Armitagemania to take on an ideological quality that shapes everything I see about him. Insofar as fandom ends up being a fantasy of the self, that would mean that I was no longer looking at myself honestly. And the attempt to do that after […]

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  13. […] are two problems here; first, there’s the ongoing issue of certain kinds of thing about Richard Armitage as an extended fantasy of self. If this is a fantasy of self, how occupied am I becoming with my own pleasure? And is that bad? […]

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  14. […] I’ve written before about what the fantasy of you dancing could mean to me, particularly its function as a destabilizer of my position as observer. Here, it’s something about pleasure. If you’re some version of my fantasy of self, dancing just on the margins of my glances, you’re still there, you’ll still be there, when all this evaporates. I can count on you to come back. And maybe, my fantasy hopes, one day I’ll look at you, accidentally, just a little too long and you’ll shimmy your way over to me, extending your arms, and holding out your hands. […]

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  15. […] pronounced issue for me that fall was something that I barely glimpsed then — that fandom for me involves a kind of fantasy of self. I can see now that I was asking myself to stop thinking about the Armitage half of the equation. […]

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  16. […] Not that he’s paying any attention to what I want, but I don’t want to put any pressure on him to feel a certain way. Feelings are feelings. He has the right to his (even when they are unpleasant), which means I have the right to mine (even when mine are unpleasant). This message is one I need to communicate to myself, via the fandom fantasy of self. […]

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  17. […] wondered if it was the “seeing Richard Armitage in the wild” reaction that I used to muse about having in response to shots where he was being observed […]

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  18. […] venture into the unanswerable, or push me into the realm of applied fantasy. I’ve always had “I wish I could watch Richard Armitage dancing” fantasies. I think they might have begun when I saw this picture below of Armitage shaking his head while […]

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  19. […] any forthcoming album. In a weird way this gets to my fascination with Richard Armitage the dancer, someone I’ve longed to glimpse, or envisioned in action, or perhaps even dance with, though I can’t dance. In my fantasies, […]

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  20. […] been thinking about dance again. I used to fantasize about seeing Richard Armitage dance, and even about dancing with […]

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  21. […] and those spectacular thumbs) or even the expression on his face. It’s a bit of an “Armitage in the wild” photo, but that’s not the whole story, either. The relationship to youth gets me in […]

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